A problem of elephantine proportions


SMALL PRINT:ONE FEMALE ELEPHANT named Baby is in danger of stealing the limelight from Nellie as one of the best-known circus elephants in the world.

By yesterday afternoon, newspapers and media around the world had carried reports of Baby getting free from an enclosed area at Courtney Brothers Circus at the Sunbeam site in Cork, and wandering towards the Blackpool Retail Centre, before being coaxed back to her temporary home.

The incident was filmed on a mobile phone and has led to renewed calls for the banning of live animals in circus acts. This Saturday, the Animal Rights Action Network is planning a protest at the circus site in Cork at 3pm.

The Courtney Brothers Circus is in Cork until Sunday and uses up to five elephants in its twice-daily performances. Just what is it with circus animals escaping from circuses? Whether it was two elephants wandering into a bog in Youghal in 2007, or a herd of llamas going for a stroll down the M50 in 2009, some animals have a knack of fleeing shortly after a circus pulls into town.

At lunchtime yesterday quite a few families had gathered at the Sunbeam site in Cork, where the elephants were held behind both an electric and steel fence. Here is what they had to say.

“I’m saddened because these beautiful animals should be out in the wild. We love to see them and still do go to the circus. You enjoy the thrill of it but you have to think of the animals. It is lovely to see them here, but I wish they were somewhere else.”

– John Cronin

“They look better when you see them in a zoo as they have more freedom. I wouldn’t take my children to this circus. But we came up here today because my son has never seen an elephant.”

– Lisa Lehane and her son, David

“ My granddaughter has the option of coming to this or an Easter egg so she has to make up her mind. Looking at the elephants here now they are huge. I wonder where they were running to? Maybe McDonald’s? Or Fota Wildlife Park?”

– Bridget O’Leary

“It is my second time coming here to look at them. They look sad and depressed. I saw the video on Facebook and it was very good, with him running away and two fellas chasing him and looking like they didn’t have much control. It’s brilliant publicity for the circus. But it is depressing looking at them standing there in concrete.”

– Niall Hendrick

“This has been dramatised to the hilt by the media. If it was a dangerous animal we wouldn’t have it in the circus. People are coming in their droves to look at the elephants. Whether that turns into ticket sales we don’t know yet.”

– Jim Conway,general manager, Courtney Brothers Circus

“There is no hiding from the fact that if politicians do not bring in new legislation in the upcoming Animal Health and Welfare Bill to ban animal-act circuses, than a tragedy is in waiting. Ireland needs to get with the times and join the ranks of Greece, Bolivia, Peru, Austria, Croatia and the UK and ban animal-act circuses for good.”

– John Carmody,Animal Rights Action Network